The first time I read this novel I was a senior in high school. I reread it as an undergraduate in college also, and it has since become one of my favorite realistic fiction novels of all time. Laurie Halse Anderson’s writing is all at once simple and masterful. Not only does she tell a story with heart, with hurt and pain, but she also does so with beautiful language. Speak is not a story that is difficult to read. The language and sentence structure are not complex or academic. Yet the message in Speak is so strong and powerful, it earns its status as the oxymoronic “contemporary classic.”
Rape is a very difficult issue to deal with and read about in our world. We all know that it happens, for many of us it has been a reality or has been a reality for our friends. Yet there always seems to be a backlash about discussing the topic. However, discussing topics such as rape and incest seem to become increasingly important as more and more people seem to be effected by these experiences. I agree with Anderson’s statement on censorship in our textbook (and printed in the back of my copy of Speak). Censorship of the discussion of these issues in literature can only harm rather than help. Speak is one of the books I’ve read which I think handles the issue of rape very well. To be honest, Speak does a better job in my opinion of exploring the topic of rape than did The Kite Runner. While I don’t necessarily think that The Kite Runner was dishonest in its portrayal of the pain that follows a situation of rape, I feel that Speak is much closer to the heart of the issue, if only because it is told from the first person narrative of the victim. I also feel that Melinda’s depression and struggles are relatable to any teenager trying to survive high school, whether or not they’re dealing with a similar past experience.